Tourism is currently booming in Portugal – there have been 40% more American visitors in the last year, for instance. Most of these tourists come to Portugal to enjoy a holiday in a country that still retains an enormous amount of specific charm.
Within this small country there are zillions of things to do: bathing or surfing on incredible beaches, visiting beautiful towns, hill trecking, tasting world class Douro wines, and so on …
However, a small minority of the people who visit Portugal do not know how to travel. It is depressing to read that once again a group of British tourists have caused havoc in the Algarve. How tedious this must be for people living in that region and how deeply embarrassing for any British residents!
Early in the morning of Monday 26 June, 50 anti-riot police officers had to intervene in a bar in the Oura bar district of Albufeira. A group of Brits on a stag outing were behaving in an offensive and violent manner, literally taking over the bar in which they were drinking. These individuals were travelling to the Algarve as part of an outfit called “Invasion Portugal”. I’m not quite sure why a holiday in a foreign country should require an “invasion”, but there you are, that’s what this outing was called.
The following day, a fight broke out at Faro airport. This time British women were involved.
There are several things that are depressing about these news items. First, the regularity with which we continue to hear reports of oafish behavior by Brits visiting foreign countries and in particular Mediterranean resorts. Why does it so often seem to be parties of marauding Brits that are causing the trouble in these towns? Why do the alcohol drenched minds of these people imagine that “abroad” is synonymous with a green light to trash, be rude to locals, shoplift and damage property? What isn’t working in our culture and educational system?
Then there is the fall out on local businesses and tourism in general. I cannot help feeling terribly sorry not only for the owners of bars and restaurants in Albufeira, but equally for the majority of British tourists attempting to have a good holiday in Portugal and for local British expats who can’t be feeling too good at the moment. If I owned a bar in the Algarve, I would certainly feel apprehensive if a large group of male Brits walked in. Come to think of it, if I was a local taxi driver, if I saw them staggering out of the said bar I think I would just keep driving …
Finally, there is the inevitable reaction from the police. Although it should certainly not be expected that the police just stand around and watch parties of oafish people trash the local community and insult whichever country they are visiting, it should be said that the police response is not always perfectly calibrated.
There was a time when British football hooligans used to have their boot laces and braces removed by the British police. This non-violent response to unacceptable behavior was, believe you me, extremely effective.
Might it not be possible today to create a European data base for people who behave in an exceptionally offensive manner when they travel, to ensure that they are prevented from travelling within the European Union? It would surely also be beneficial to ban large stag groups.
The author, James Mayor, is the founder of Grape Discoveries, a wine and culture boutique travel company
See the 'Grape Discoveries' website